Every Herb Has a Story: Licorice's Health Benefits

By Staff
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Randy Buresh (Registered Nurse and Herbalist), is the co-owner and founder of Oregon’s Wild Harvest. Oregon’s Wild Harvest grows, harvests and produces their own medicinal herbal products, many of which use the herbs grown on their certified Biodynamic® and Organic farm in Sandy, Oregon. www.oregonswildharvest.com

Every herb has a story, and that of licorice begins with its reputation as a “sweet herb.” Plants are put on this earth to provide nourishment and healing benefits. Licorice is one of those unique and special plants that does both.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has a long traditional history, and is considered a “master herb” because of its wide range of healthy benefits. It was named by Dioscorides, a Greek physician, who gave licorice its Latin genus name–Glycyrrhiaza means “sweet root.” For thousands of years, licorice has been the principle herb used in many phyto-prescriptions.

It takes just a small amount of the herb to help flavor a therapeutic tea that otherwise might be intolerable to drink.  

Licorice is used in about one-third of Chinese herbal formulas. Its inclusion is mostly likely due to 1.) the herb’s ability to improve the flavor of the traditional herbal teas/decoctions and 2.) the fact that licorice is rich in “saponins,” which are herbal “soaps” or surfactants. This improves the absorption of poorly absorbed herb compounds. This is the reason why Chinese herbalists believe in licorice’s harmonizing effect.

Personally, I love the taste of licorice, and think it’s a great addition to other herbs I use when I’m feeling under the weather.

Licorice also has a wealth of therapeutic purposes, from supporting the female reproductive system to aiding the digestive system. Licorice enhances the mucous production of gastro-intestinal cells, and decreases damaging stomach acids. Both of these actions support the health of the stomach lining.

It’s also often used to calm a cough and balance hormones. These multiple actions make it a great tonic herb for supporting healthy digestive, respiratory and immune systems. It also promotes a healthy adrenal response to stress.

More recently, licorice has been shown to help modulate the body’s inflammatory response. With all these beneficial properties, it’s little wonder that Licorice is a popular ingredient in many herbal therapies. 

In my opinion, Licorice is one of Nature’s best kept secrets, in that this herb can be eaten as candy, or added to teas for improved flavor, or used therapeutically for a variety of ailments. 

Licorice’s story is surely one of sweet, sweet  soothing success!

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